The Commons is a weblog for concerned citizens of southeast Iowa and their friends around the world. It was created to encourage grassroots networking and to share information and ideas which have either been suppressed or drowned out in the mainstream media.

"But if the cause be not good, the king himself hath a heavy reckoning to make, when all those legs and arms and heads, chopped off in battle, shall join together at the latter day and cry all 'We died at such a place;' some swearing, some crying for a surgeon, some upon their wives left poor behind them, some upon the debts they owe, some upon their children rawly left. I am afeard there are few die well that die in a battle; for how can they charitably dispose of any thing, when blood is their argument? Now, if these men do not die well, it will be a black matter for the king that led them to it; whom to disobey were against all proportion of subjection." (Henry V, Act V, Scene 4)

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Cheney Tangles With Agency on Secrecy

Cheney Tangles With Agency on Secrecy

By Chitra Ragavan

Posted 2/8/07

An important legal ruling is pending over Vice President Cheney's refusal to disclose statistics on document classification and declassification activity. The Information Security Oversight Office, which is responsible for the policy and oversight of the government's security classification system, has asked Attorney General Alberto Gonzales to direct Cheney's office to disclose these statistics.

Cheney's office provided the information until 2002 but then stopped doing so, J. William Leonard, the director of ISOO, told U.S. News. At issue is whether the office of the vice president is an executive branch entity when it comes to supporting the activities of the president and the vice president. The reporting requirements for disclosing classification and declassification activity fall under a presidential executive order.

"Basically the definition says that any entity of the executive branch that comes into possession of classified information is covered by the reporting requirements," says Leonard. "I have my understanding of what the executive order requires, and I'm going to the attorney general to ascertain if my reading of the executive order is correct."

However, Megan McGinn, Cheney's deputy press secretary, says the vice president's office is exempt.

"This matter has been thoroughly reviewed," McGinn told U.S. News, "and it has been determined that reporting requirements do not apply to the office of the vice president, which has both legislative and executive functions." Under the Constitution, the vice president serves as president of the Senate.

But advocates for release say the vice president is shirking accountability.

"No secrets would be revealed, only statistics," says Steven Aftergood of the Federation of American Scientists, who urged ISOO to obtain the compliance of the vice president's office last May. "But the office of the vice president is resisting even that minimal level of accountability."

If the attorney general determines that Cheney's interpretation of the executive order is right, Leonard says it would be the final answer. "That's it for me," says Leonard. ISOO is a component of the National Archives and oversees the security classification programs both for the government and the security industry. Leonard reports to the archivist of the United States and is required at least annually to submit a report to the president about the government's classification programs and significant classification and declassification activities.

All this is not without precedent: The attorney general once before had to resolve a similar dispute over implementing an executive order on classification. That fight took place in 1999, when the Central Intelligence Agency refused to accept the jurisdiction of the Interagency Security Classification Appeals Panel. The Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel ruled that year that CIA classification decisions were subject to ISCAP review. But in 2003, President Bush gave the director of central intelligence a veto over ISCAP decisions.

http://www.usnews.com/usnews/news/articles/070208/8cheney.htm?s_cid=rss:site1

Cheney won't tell how much he keeps secret

Cheney won't tell how much he keeps secret

By Mark Silva
Chicago Tribune

WASHINGTON — As the Bush administration has dramatically accelerated the classification of information as "top secret" or "confidential," one office is refusing to report on its annual activity in classifying documents: the office of Vice President Dick Cheney.

A standing executive order, strengthened by President Bush in 2003, requires all agencies and "any other entity within the executive branch" to provide an annual accounting of their classification of documents. More than 80 agencies have collectively reported to the National Archives that they made 15.6 million decisions in 2004 to classify information, nearly double the number in 2001, but Cheney insists he is exempt.

Explaining why the vice president has withheld even a tally of his office's secrecy when offices such as the National Security Council routinely report theirs, a spokeswoman said Cheney is "not under any duty" to provide it.

That is only one way the Bush administration, from its opening weeks in 2001, has asserted control over information. By keeping secret so many directives and actions, the administration has precluded the public — and often Congress — from knowing about some of the most significant decisions and acts of the White House.

In the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks, the administration has based much of its need for confidentiality on the imperative of protecting national security at a time of war. Yet experts say Bush and his closest advisers demonstrated their proclivity for privacy well before the attacks:

Starting in the early weeks of his administration with a move to protect the papers of former presidents, Bush has clamped down on the release of government documents. That includes tougher standards for what the public can obtain under the Freedom of Information Act and the creation of a broad new category of "sensitive but unclassified information."

Not only has the administration reported a dramatic increase in the number of documents deemed "top secret," "secret" or "confidential," the president has authorized the reclassification of information that was public for years. An audit by a National Archives office recently found that the CIA acted in a "clearly inappropriate" way regarding about one-third of the documents it reclassified last year.

The White House has resisted efforts by Congress to gain information, starting with a White House energy task force headed by Cheney and continuing with the president's secret authorization of warrantless surveillance of people inside the United States suspected of communicating with terrorists abroad. Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., recently threatened to withhold funding for the surveillance program unless the White House starts providing information.

The administration has withheld the identities of, and accusations against, detainees held in its war on terror, and it censored the findings of a joint House-Senate committee that investigated the events leading to Sept. 11, including a 27-page blackout of Saudi Arabia's alleged connections to the terrorists.

While maintaining a disciplined and virtually leakproof White House, senior members of the administration have been accused of leaking information to punish a critic of the Iraq war. The grand-jury testimony of a former White House aide reportedly asserts that Bush himself selectively authorized release of once-classified information to counter criticism.

Bush and Cheney have made it clear they are intent on reclaiming presidential powers lost by Bush predecessors. That erosion of power started with President Nixon's losing fight over the privacy of his papers after the Watergate scandal and continued through President Clinton's impeachment.

"This is a presidency in which, from the start, there were important forces to accentuate the executive prerogative, and all of that became more important after 9/11," said Fred Greenstein, professor emeritus of politics at Princeton University and author of "The Presidential Difference: Leadership Style from FDR to George W. Bush."

To others, the insistence that information considered important be kept confidential is part of the Bush White House's insistence on discipline and order.

"I really think they think of it in terms of good governance," said James Carafano, senior fellow for national security and homeland security at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank. "It's a very corporate style of leadership."

Bush has a partner — some say mentor — in Cheney, who from the start resisted all efforts to disclose the inner workings of a task force devising energy policy. He defeated an unprecedented lawsuit by the Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress, to unveil that task force and carried his fight successfully to the Supreme Court.

And as the administration has sealed an increasing number of documents as secret or sensitive, and cut the number of documents being declassified each year, the refusal of Cheney's office to report on the number of its decisions stands out.

A directive from the National Archives, acting under the authority of the executive order bolstered by Bush in March 2003, requires all agencies and executive-branch units to report annually on classification and declassification of files.

Cheney's office maintains that its dual executive and legislative duties make it unique, as the vice president also serves as Senate president.

"This matter has been carefully reviewed," spokeswoman Lea Anne McBride said. "It has been determined that the reporting requirement does not apply to the office of the vice president."

The administration started asserting its power over paper soon after Bush's inauguration by placing a hold on the release of the records of former presidents — beginning with the papers of Ronald Reagan's presidency — and later issuing an executive order granting past presidents, or their representatives if the president has died, a veto over releases. The order gave the same authority to vice presidents.

Before the end of its first year, the administration also reversed a long-standing policy on how agencies respond to public requests for records under the Freedom of Information Act.

Clinton's attorney general, Janet Reno, had insisted on "a presumption of disclosure." But Bush's first attorney general, John Ashcroft, implored all agencies to disclose information requested by the public "only after full and deliberate consideration ... of the privacy interests that could be implicated."

Amid growing concern about information that terrorists might obtain from the government, then-chief of staff Andrew Card issued an order in March 2002 demanding that any "Sensitive but Unclassified Information" related to homeland security be released only after careful consideration "on a case-by-case basis."

That has led to a proliferation of documents stamped "Sensitive but Unclassified" or simply "For Office Use Only," according to experts who track government record-keeping.

The Bush administration is "objectively more secretive" than its recent predecessors, said Steven Aftergood, director of the Project on Government Secrecy at the Federation of American Scientists.

"Anyone who calls or writes a government agency for information encounters barriers that were just not there a decade ago," he said. "The government is undergoing a mutation in which we are gradually shifting into another kind of government in which executive authority is supreme and significantly unchecked."

http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/cgi-bin/PrintStory.pl?document_id=2002962226&zsection_id=2002107549&slug=cheney30&date=20060430

CIA doubts didn't deter Feith's team

CIA doubts didn't deter Feith's team

Intelligence agencies disagreed with many of its prewar findings.
By Greg Miller and Julian E. Barnes
Times Staff Writers

February 10, 2007

WASHINGTON — As the Bush administration began assembling its case for war, analysts across the U.S. intelligence community were disturbed by the report of a secretive Pentagon team that concluded Iraq had significant ties to Al Qaeda.

Analysts from the CIA and other agencies "disagreed with more than 50%" of 26 findings the Pentagon team laid out in a controversial paper, according to testimony Friday from Thomas F. Gimble, acting inspector general of the Pentagon.

The dueling groups sat down at CIA headquarters in late August 2002 to try to work out their differences. But while the CIA agreed to minor modifications in some of its own reports, Gimble said, the Pentagon unit was utterly unbowed.

"They didn't make the changes that were talked about in that August 20th meeting," Gimble said, and instead went on to present their deeply flawed findings to senior officials at the White House.

The work of that special Pentagon unit — which was run by former Undersecretary of Defense Douglas J. Feith — is one of the lingering symbols of the intelligence failures leading up to the war in Iraq.

The Bush administration's primary justification for invading Iraq was always its assertion that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction. But Iraq's supposed ties to Al Qaeda — and therefore its connection to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks — were an important secondary argument, and one that resonated with many Americans in the lead-up to the war with Iraq.

The CIA and many other intelligence agencies were wrong in their assessments of Iraq's weapons programs. But the agency was always deeply skeptical about the ties between Iraq and Al Qaeda.

Most of the evidence that Feith's Office of Special Plans cited in making its case for significant collaboration between Baghdad and Al Qaeda has crumbled under postwar scrutiny. The Senate Intelligence Committee has concluded that Saddam Hussein was so wary of the terrorist network that he barred anyone in his government from dealing with Al Qaeda.

Although the Pentagon Inspector General's report released Friday did not address the accuracy of such assessments, it documented the unusual efforts by Defense Department policymakers to bypass regular intelligence channels and influence officials at the highest level of government.

Feith's work was of critical importance to Vice President Dick Cheney, who once referred to the Pentagon team's conclusions as the "best source" for understanding the relationship between Iraq and Al Qaeda.

The activities of Feith's group weren't illegal, Gimble concluded. But they were, "in our opinion, inappropriate, given that the intelligence assessments were [presented as] intelligence products and did not clearly show the variance with the consensus of the intelligence community."

The Pentagon team touted a series of claims that have not survived postwar review. Among them was the allegation that Mohammed Atta, the presumed ringleader of the Sept. 11 hijackers, had met with an Iraqi agent in Prague before the attacks.

A critical question raised by the inspector general's report is whether Feith and his office were just critiquing CIA analysis, or were creating their own intelligence assessment, a role that is supposed to be left to the CIA and other intelligence agencies.

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) noted Friday that Cheney has referred to Feith's work as an "assessment," suggesting it was a formal intelligence document. But Feith maintained in interviews he was not creating an intelligence "product," but was just checking the work of the CIA.

Laurence H. Silberman, a semiretired U.S. appeals court judge and co-chairman of a presidential commission on Iraq's weapons, said it is appropriate to question intelligence.

"Policymakers, whether they are in Defense, State, the White House or Congress, are absolutely entitled to question the intelligence community, look over the material and come up with their own views," he said.

Feith's work had the blessing of his boss, former Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld. The operation was set up at the behest of then-Deputy Defense Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz with approval from Rumsfeld, Gimble noted. By most accounts, those three officials had distrust, if not disdain, for the work of the CIA and other intelligence agencies.

But Robert M. Gates, the new secretary of Defense and former CIA director, said that groups outside the CIA and other chartered intelligence agencies should not be involved in freelance analysis.

"Based on my whole career, I believe all intelligence activities need to be carried on by the established institutions, where there is appropriate oversight," he told reporters traveling with him in Europe for meetings on security.

Gimble provided new details on the chain of events leading from the creation of the Feith team, through a series of briefings it made for senior officials and culminating in a presentation before deputies in the National Security Council at the White House.

The initial instruction to search for links between Iraq and Al Qaeda came from Wolfowitz in January 2002, Gimble said.

By that July, Feith had assembled a group of analysts detailed from other agencies to draft a document outlining evidence that the officials thought other agencies had ignored.

The team presented its findings to Rumsfeld on Aug. 8. Rumsfeld found it so compelling that he urged Feith to arrange a briefing for then-CIA Director George J. Tenet at the CIA. In the meantime, the team's paper began to circulate among analysts at other agencies who took issue with more than half of its contents.

"There were like 26 points," in the Feith team's paper, Gimble said. "And essentially [experts at other agencies] disagreed with more than 50% of it, and either agreed or partially agreed with the remainder."

When the team briefed Tenet and other senior CIA officials on Aug. 15, the audience was polite but unimpressed. Tenet described the meeting as "useful," Gimble said, but "in our interviews with him he later said that he only said that it was 'useful' because he didn't agree with it and he was just trying to, you know, nicely end the meeting."

That encounter led to the "roundtable" meeting at the agency five days later where CIA experts urged the Pentagon unit to at least include footnotes acknowledging the long list of disagreements.

Nevertheless, the Pentagon team pressed on.

P.J. Crowley, a retired Air Force colonel and a senior fellow at the Center of American Progress, said that the intelligence peddled by Feith tainted the public dialogue.

"They weren't creating intelligence, but they were assembling the pieces to create a rationale for war," Crowley said. "Their production was discredited, but they had the desired effect. The little pieces ended up infecting the process."


greg.miller@latimes.com

julian.barnes@latimes.com

Times staff writer Peter Spiegel in Seville, Spain, contributed to this report.


http://www.latimes.com/news/printedition/asection/la-na-feith10feb10,1,1150147,print.story?coll=la-news-a_section

David Sirota - I Want to Believe [in Obama, but. . .]

I Want to Believe

Sat Feb 10, 2007 at 01:03:00 PM CST

"I Want to Believe" - that was what the X-Files poster hanging in my best friend's bedroom in high school blared out. An updated, political version of this poster would have the same words over a photograph of Illinois Sen. Barack Obama (D).

I've written a lot about Obama, including a major piece for The Nation magazine last year. In my time studying his career, it became obvious that this is a person who wants to do the right thing and has genuinely strong convictions. But he also seems to believe that the reason our country has such challenges is because all sides of every issue have not come together in unity (I've gone back and forth wondering whether this is a sincere belief or merely a justification for overly cautious behavior, but I'm not a psychoanalyst, so I have no idea).

The problem with this outlook is that it fundamentally misunderstands why we are at this moment in history. Forty-five million Americans are uninsured, and millions more underinsured not because low-income health advocates and the insurance industry haven't sat down together and sung Kumbaya. It's because, unlike every other industrialized country in the world, we have a government that has been bribed into allowing the insurance industry to profiteer off sick people. Our global warming problem did not happen because environmentalists and the auto industry refused to hug each other. It happened because the auto industry has bought off enough politicians to make sure we don't increase fuel efficiency standards.

Put another way, there is no "third way" or "consensus" way out of many of our most pressing problems, as Obama seems to believe. Why? Because many of our most pressing problems are zero-sum: someone is benefiting from the status quo, and to change the status quo means someone may lose something. And if you don't believe me, just take a quick look at history.

We didn't get food safety laws by getting food processing companies to be nice to regular folks - we got it because people like Upton Sinclair and the progressive movement forced our government to crack down. Women didn't get the right to vote because male politicians decided to be nice - they got the right to vote because they demanded it. The civil rights reforms didn't happen because Lyndon Johnson just one day decided to champion the Civil Rights Act - it happened because a movement to frontally challenge power was built.

I believe somewhere in his heart, Barack Obama knows this reality, and struggles with it. As Ben Wallace-Wells writes in Rolling Stone today:

"Obama's life story is a splicing of two different roles, and two different ways of thinking about America's. One is that of the consummate insider, someone who has been raised believing that he will help to lead America, who believes in this country's capacity for acts of outstanding virtue. The other is that of a black man who feels very deeply that this country's exercise of its great inherited wealth and power has been grossly unjust. This tension runs through his life."

Washington is a place designed to drub that latter quality out of Obama - the part that "feels very deeply that this country's exercise of its great inherited wealth and power has been grossly unjust." In the Beltway, he is surrounded by old political hands who, like most people there, likely try to tamp down any of his confrontational, power-challenging instincts for fear they might offend ruling class sensibilities. That culture is at odds with Obama's earlier career in more power-challenging roles, such as a community organizer. This might explain why, for instance, after strongly opposing the war in his run for the U.S. Senate, he went almost completely silent on the issue for his first year in Washington (even once speaking out against those who were pushing for an exit strategy), but now back on the campaign trail, he is pushing one of the strongest bills on Iraq in the entire Congress.

Ultimately, Obama will have to make a very important decision - one that none of the pundits will ever see, much less understand. He will have to decide whether he wants to offer up poll-tested platitudes about nebulous "hope" and run for President, or whether he wants to really challenge the status quo and actually BE ELECTED President. And as I said at the beginning, I want to believe he will make the right choice.

http://www.dailykos.com/story/2007/2/10/1427/83134

The Build-a-War Workshop

The Build-a-War Workshop
The New York Times | Editorial

Saturday 10 February 2007

It took far too long, but a report by the Pentagon inspector general has finally confirmed that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's do-it-yourself intelligence office cooked up a link between Iraq and Al Qaeda to help justify an unjustifiable war.

The report said the team headed by Douglas Feith, under secretary of defense for policy, developed "alternative" assessments of intelligence on Iraq that contradicted the intelligence community and drew conclusions "that were not supported by the available intelligence." Mr. Feith certainly knew the Central Intelligence Agency would cry foul, so he hid his findings from the C.I.A. Then Vice President Dick Cheney used them as proof of cloak-and-dagger meetings that never happened, long-term conspiracies between Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden that didn't exist, and - most unforgivable - "possible Iraqi coordination" on the 9/11 attacks, which no serious intelligence analyst believed.

The inspector general did not recommend criminal charges against Mr. Feith because Mr. Rumsfeld or his deputy, Paul Wolfowitz, approved their subordinate's "inappropriate" operations. The renegade intelligence buff said he was relieved.

We're sure he was. But there is no comfort in knowing that his dirty work was approved by his bosses. All that does is add to evidence that the Bush administration knowingly and repeatedly misled Americans about the intelligence on Iraq.

To understand this twisted tale, it is important to recall how Mr. Feith got into the creative writing business. Top administration officials, especially Mr. Cheney, had long been furious at the C.I.A. for refusing to confirm the delusion about a grand Iraqi terrorist conspiracy, something the Republican right had nursed for years. Their frustration only grew after 9/11 and the C.I.A. still refused to buy these theories.

Mr. Wolfowitz would feverishly sketch out charts showing how this Iraqi knew that Iraqi, who was connected through six more degrees of separation to terrorist attacks, all the way back to the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.

But the C.I.A. kept saying there was no reliable intelligence about an Iraq-Qaeda link. So Mr. Feith was sent to review the reports and come back with the answers Mr. Cheney wanted. The inspector general's report said Mr. Feith' s team gave a September 2002 briefing at the White House on the alleged Iraq-Qaeda connection that had not been vetted by the intelligence community (the director of central intelligence was pointedly not told it was happening) and "was not fully supported by the available intelligence."

The false information included a meeting in Prague in April 2001 between an Iraqi official and Mohamed Atta, one of the 9/11 pilots. It never happened. But Mr. Feith's report said it did, and Mr. Cheney will still not admit that the story is false.

In a statement released yesterday, Senator Carl Levin, the new chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, who has been dogged in pursuit of the truth about the Iraqi intelligence, noted that the cooked-up Feith briefing had been leaked to the conservative Weekly Standard magazine so Mr. Cheney could quote it as the "best source" of information about the supposed Iraq-Qaeda link.

The Pentagon report is one step in a long-delayed effort to figure out how the intelligence on Iraq was so badly twisted - and by whom. That work should have been finished before the 2004 elections, and it would have been if Pat Roberts, the obedient Republican who ran the Senate Intelligence Committee, had not helped the White House drag it out and load it in ways that would obscure the truth.

It is now up to Mr. Levin and Senator Jay Rockefeller, the current head of the intelligence panel, to give Americans the answers. Mr. Levin's desire to have the entire inspector general's report on the Feith scheme declassified is a good place to start. But it will be up to Mr. Rockefeller to finally determine how old, inconclusive, unsubstantiated and false intelligence was transformed into fresh, reliable and definitive reports - and then used by Mr. Bush and other top officials to drag the country into a disastrous and unnecessary war.

-------

Evasive Maneuvers

Evasive Maneuvers
How the Justice Department is teaching other agencies to sidestep congressional investigations.

By Barbara T. Dreyfuss

American Prospect
Web Exclusive: 02.09.07

The newly elected Democratic leaders in Congress are gearing up for a broad array of oversight hearings and investigations of the Bush administration. However, they are likely to butt heads with a Justice Department intent on thwarting their efforts -- as Republican Senators Charles Grassley of Iowa and Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania did recently when they tried to scrutinize administration actions.

The Justice Department, which serves as legal counsel in court proceedings for other departments, has repeatedly gone beyond merely protecting its own actions from scrutiny. Even when Congress was in Republican hands, Justice Department officials advised other government departments on how to stonewall congressional review. These efforts now appear to be ramping up.

The Justice Department Legal Counsel's office recently held meetings with lawyers of other departments to discuss strategy for responding to congressional requests for documents and hearing appearances. In January, Senator Grassley charged at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing that the DOJ has started running training "events" for other offices of the executive branch, teaching them how to handle congressional inquiries and hearings. Grassley's office says they were tipped off to this by someone in the Justice Department worried about this new program.

Grassley voiced concern that the new training sessions are "lessons to stiff-arm Congress." He said he drew this conclusion from the "unnecessary hurdles and roadblocks from the department" he encountered in his recent efforts to investigate the FDA, the FBI, and the SEC while chairman of the Senate Finance Committee. Responding to Grassley at the hearing, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales denied there was any "coordinated effort to try to coach them about how to answer questions." Rather, he said, "it's to make sure that we are providing the appropriate level of cooperation, because we do have an obligation -- to try to accommodate competing legitimate interests."

Grassley's exchange with Gonzales occurred during the first Judiciary Committee oversight hearing held by its new Democratic chairman, Patrick Leahy of Vermont. Leahy has expressed concern repeatedly over the years about DOJ's unresponsiveness to his questions. In December, the Justice Department rebuffed a request from him for documents on the detention of suspected terrorists. Leahy, Charles Schumer of New York, and other senators clashed with Gonzales at last month's concerning the DOJ's lack of cooperation with congressional inquiries into DOJ's own controversies, including charges of illegal wiretaps and sending detainees abroad to be tortured. Grassley criticized the DOJ for refusing for years to brief Congress about its investigation into the 2001 anthrax attacks, and accused it of "thumbing the nose at congressional oversight."

But Grassley moved beyond those issues in demanding to know if the Justice Department was also teaching other agencies to be evasive and stymie congressional inquiry through its training sessions. The senator was particularly concerned that some training sessions are being run by the Office of Legislative Affairs, which, he charged, was "the source of unnecessary and inappropriate foot-dragging in many of my oversight efforts over the years."

Before the hearing, Grassley had requested materials the DOJ was using in the training sessions, in order to question Gonzales about them. But the Attorney General claimed he had never received the request. Gonzales promised to find out why the documents weren't delivered. Grassley says he still hasn't received any materials from the DOJ and questions whether Justice is really making a "sincere effort" to respond.

Despite the fact that the Attorney General did not dispute Grassley's premise at the hearing, a Justice Department spokesman denied to the Prospect that the agency even has a "training program" on congressional hearings. But he acknowledged that if other executive agencies ask for it, DOJ does give "confidential advice on congressional oversight."

An activist Democratic Congress may give added back-up to several investigations, launched by both Grassley in the Finance Committee and Arlen Specter in the Judiciary Committee, that have provoked resistance from the DOJ. Grassley has conducted high-profile hearings on the FDA over the past several years, featuring a number of whistleblowers, and previously lambasted the DOJ for attempting to stall or frustrate his investigations of FDA and HHS.

Last summer, the Finance Committee was looking into the role of falsified clinical data in the FDA approval of a drug. After Grassley accused the Justice Department of working with HHS to obstruct that investigation, finance committee staff were blocked from interviewing FDA investigators by the Justice Department. Grassley took the extraordinary step of going directly to FDA offices to speak with FDA personnel, but was still not allowed access to them.

In a December hearing of the Judiciary Committee, just before Congress changed hands, Grassley and the panel's then-chairman, Specter, uncovered further evidence of Justice Department collusion in efforts to thwart congressional inquiry and intimidate whistleblowers. This involved the unheard-of step of subpoenaing confidential discussions between a whistleblower and congressional staff.

That hearing focused on charges, by former Securities and Exchange Commission attorney Gary Aguirre, that an investigation into insider trading by one of the largest hedge funds was squelched by SEC officials. Aguirre had wanted to take testimony from a prominent Wall Street figure, who was also a major fundraiser for President Bush. When he pressed the point, he was not only prevented from doing so -- he was fired.

After Aguirre wrote a letter to SEC Chairman Christopher Cox in September 2005 exposing these events, the Inspector General of the SEC, Walter Stachnik, conducted a cursory investigation into Aguirre's accusations. Without even questioning Aguirre, but only talking to the SEC officials he had accused, the IG dismissed the allegations. Last week, in an interim report on their investigation into the entire matter, Grassley and Specter castigated the IG for a "seriously flawed" investigation.

After the IG's whitewash investigation, Aguirre went to the Senate Judiciary and Finance Committees, which began a serious investigation. Committee staff reviewed thousands of pages of material and questioned numerous witnesses. Under intense congressional scrutiny, the SEC reopened its inquiry into the hedge fund and the Inspector General renewed his review of SEC officials.

But the IG went further, much further, than merely reopening his investigation into SEC actions. He issued a subpoena to Aguirre, which went beyond a request for documents supporting his charges. It included an extraordinary demand, unheard-of by Grassley and his staff, for communication between the whistleblower and Senate investigators.

The Justice Department, acting as the IG's lawyer, attempted to enforce the subpoena. They did that even after Aguirre had provided 250 pages of details supporting his allegations.

Questioned repeatedly by senators at the December Judiciary Committee hearing as to why he needed congressional staff communications, the IG continually hid behind the Justice Department, which he said had advised him not to discuss it. "You may be playing footsy with an executive branch of government that wants to curb congressional inquiries even beyond this one" an exasperated Grassley warned.

Grassley and Specter raised "constitutional objections" to the subpoena with the Justice Department. They saw it as a direct attack on Congress's role as watchdog over the executive. Grassley told the Prospect that "if whistleblowers know that we would give out information that came to us, we're not going to have any whistleblowers come to us anymore. They have to trust us."

And Aguirre says the subpoena also punished whistleblowers -- he says he has "had to spend thousands of dollars on an attorney."

Specter, in releasing the interim report on the SEC investigation, labeled the subpoena a "preposterous" action. He emphasized that Congress has "constitutional oversight responsibilities, and we obviously cannot conduct those responsibilities if the information we glean is going to be subject to somebody else's review," He and Grassley made clear they intend to pursue it further.

The Justice Department and IG now seem to have backed off their demands for staff communications, after it became clear that the Senate's lawyer backed Grassley and Specter, and was ready to go to court. And so that confrontation with the Justice Department has receded. But with Democrats on the Hill launching a myriad of hearings and investigations, things are not likely to stay quiet for long.

Barbara T. Dreyfuss is a Prospect senior correspondent.

http://www.prospect.org/web/page.ww?section=root&name=ViewWeb&articleId=12444

Friday, February 09, 2007

Joe Conason - Alberto Gonzalez's coup d'etat

Alberto Gonzalez's coup d'etat
The Constitution be damned, the attorney general has seized control of U.S. attorney appointments for partisan purposes.

By Joe Conason

Feb. 09, 2007 | Under any circumstances, the Bush administration's sudden, explicitly political dismissal and replacement of United States attorneys in judicial districts across the country would be very troubling -- both as a violation of American law enforcement traditions and as a triumph of patronage over competence.

But as the story behind these strange decisions unfolds, a familiar theme is emerging. Again, the White House and the Justice Department have been exposed in a secretive attempt to expand executive power for partisan purposes. And again, their scheming is tainted with a nasty whiff of authoritarianism.

There is much more at stake here than a handful of federal jobs.

Leading senators of both parties are disturbed by these incidents because U.S. attorneys -- the powerful officials appointed by the president to prosecute federal crimes and defend federal interests in each of the nation's judicial districts -- are supposed to be as nonpartisan as possible. Democrats mostly appoint Democrats and Republicans mostly appoint Republicans, but the U.S. attorneys are usually chosen with the advice and consent of the senators from their home states, and then confirmed by the full Senate, with a decent respect for skill and experience as well as political connections.

The reason for this appointment process was simple: These prosecutors must police the politicians. They are expected to guard the nation's judicial system against the varieties of political abuse that are typical of authoritarian systems. They are granted a substantial degree of independence from the government in Washington, including the attorney general who functions as their boss.

To ensure that no U.S. attorney could be fired on a whim and replaced with a malleable hack, the relevant statute required that whenever a vacancy occurred in midterm, the replacement would be appointed by federal circuit judges rather than by the president. Getting rid of irksomely honest and nonpartisan prosecutors was difficult if not impossible.

But that wholesome safeguard was breached in December 2005, when the Senate renewed the Patriot Act. At the behest of the Justice Department, an aide to Sen. Arlen Specter slipped a provision into the bill that permitted the White House to place its own appointees in vacant U.S. attorney positions permanently and without Senate confirmation. So silently was this sleight of hand performed that Specter himself now claims, many months later, to have been completely unaware of the amendment's passage. (Of course, it would be nice if the senators actually read the legislation before they voted, particularly when they claim to be the authors.)

The staffer who reportedly performed this bit of dirty work is Michael O'Neill, a law professor at George Mason University and former clerk for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. As the Washington Times explained when O'Neill was appointed as the Senate Judiciary Committee's chief counsel, many observers believed that Specter had hired him to reassure conservatives of his loyalty to the Bush White House. Right-wing distrust had almost ousted the Pennsylvania moderate from the Judiciary chairmanship, and appointing O'Neill was apparently the price for keeping that post.

Evidently O'Neill rewarded Specter by sneaking through legislation to deprive him and his fellow senators of one of their most important powers, at the behest of an attorney general intent on aggrandizing executive power. The results of this backstage betrayal -- now playing out in a wave of politicized dismissals and hirings -- were perfectly predictable and utterly poisonous.

Carol Lam, the U.S. attorney in San Diego who successfully prosecuted the sensationally crooked Republican Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham, was fired for no known reason while she is still pursuing important leads in that historic case. Cunningham is supposed to be cooperating, but if Bush replaces her with a partisan stooge, he may be able to keep his secrets. Bud Cummings, the respected U.S. attorney in Little Rock, Ark., was canned to make room for a Republican opposition research operative and Karl Rove acolyte named Timothy Griffin. Could that conceivably have anything to do with Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's presidential candidacy? Paul Charlton, the U.S. attorney in Arizona, was thrown out while investigating allegations of corruption against Republican Rep. Rick Renzi.

And John McKay, the U.S. attorney in Seattle whose diligence has been praised by judges and lawyers of both parties, was simply ordered to quit last December, for no obvious reason. Although McKay's last evaluation by the Justice Department was excellent, the attorney general insists that all of these curious firings were due to "performance" issues.

Any such self-serving statements emanating from Alberto Gonzales should always be greeted with appropriate skepticism. So should the claim that he sought to seize control of interim U.S. attorney appointments because of his concern over the "separation of powers" issues supposedly inherent in judges' appointing prosecutors. As the McClatchy Newspapers reported on Jan. 26, Gonzales has named at least nine "conservative loyalists from the Bush administration's inner circle" to positions vacated by professional prosecutors.

On Thursday, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted to restore the old nonpartisan system for replacing U.S. attorneys and to require Senate confirmation of all new appointees. The full Senate and the House of Representatives should do likewise, despite Republican opposition, but that is not enough. The Senate Democrats should continue to probe the attorney general's little coup d'état and all of the resulting appointments. That is the best way to discourage future usurpations -- and to frustrate whatever skulduggery was afoot this time.

http://www.salon.com/opinion/conason/2007/02/09/united_states_attorneys/print.html

Cranberg wants a serious probe of why the press failed in its pre-war reporting

Cranberg wants a serious probe of why the press failed in its pre-war reporting
ASK THIS | February 07, 2007

Veteran Iowa editor wants outsiders, not people in the news industry, to examine why the press is reluctant to challenge authority at times when the country most needs a vigorous, questioning fourth estate.

By Gilbert Cranberg
gilcranberg@yahoo.com

As the war in Iraq nears its fourth anniversary, and with no end in sight, Americans are owed explanations. The Senate Intelligence Committee has promised a report on whether the Bush administration misrepresented intelligence to justify the war against Iraq. An explanation is due also for how the U.S. press helped pave the way for war. An independent and thorough inquiry of pre-war press coverage would be a public service. Not least of the beneficiaries would be the press itself, which could be helped to understand its behavior and avoid a replay.

Better a study by outsiders than by insiders. Besides, journalism groups show no appetite for self-examination. Nor would a study by the press about the press have credibility. Now and then a news organization has published a mea culpa about its Iraq coverage, but isolated admissions of error are no substitute for comprehensive study.

The fundamental question: Why did the press as a whole fail to question sufficiently the administration’s case for war?

More specifically:

Q. Why did the Knight Ridder Washington Bureau’s “against-the grain reporting” during the build-up to war receive such “disappointing play,” in the words of its former bureau chief?

Q. Why did the press generally fail to pay more attention to the bureau’s ground-breaking coverage?

Q. Why, on the eve of war, did the Washington Post’s executive editor reject a story by Walter Pincus, its experienced and knowledgeable national security reporter, that questioned administration claims of hidden Iraqi weapons and why, when the editor reconsidered, the story ran on Page 17?

Q. Why did the Post, to the “dismay” of the paper’s ombudsman, bury in the back pages or miss stories that challenged the administration’s version of events? Or, as Pincus complained, why did Post editors go “through a whole phase in which they didn’t put things on the front page that would make a difference” while, from August 2002 to the start of the war in March 2003, did the Post, according to its press critic, Howard Kurtz, publish “more than 140 front-page stories that focused heavily on administration rhetoric against Iraq”?

Q. Why did Michael Massing’s critique of Iraq-war coverage, in the New York Review of Books, conclude that “The Post was not alone. The nearer the war drew, and the more determined the administration seemed to wage it, the less editors were willing to ask tough questions. The occasional critical stories that did appear were…tucked well out of sight.”

Q. Why did the New York Times and others parrot administration claims about Iraq’s acquisition of aluminum tubes for nuclear weapons when independent experts were readily available to debunk the claims?

Q. Why did the Times’s Thomas E. Friedman and other foreign affairs specialists, who should have known better, join the “let’s-go-to-war” chorus?

Q. Why was a report by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace accusing the administration of misusing intelligence by misrepresenting and distorting it given two paragraphs in the Times and 700 words in the Post (but deep inside), with neither story citing the report’s reference to distorted and misrepresented intelligence?

Q. Why did Colin Powell’s pivotal presentation to the United Nations receive immediate and overwhelming press approval despite its evident weaknesses and even fabrications?

Q. Why did the British press, unlike its American counterpart, critically dissect the speech and regard it with scorn?

Q. Why did the Associated Press wait six months, when the body count began to rise, to distribute a major piece by AP’s Charles Hanley challenging Powell’s evidence and why did Hanley say how frustrating it had been until then to break through the self-censorship imposed by his editors on negative news about Iraq?

Now is an opportune time for behavioral experts to study these and related aspects of Iraq war coverage while memories are fresh and the actors are readily available. A team of social scientists needs to be convened to design a study and probe the gate-keepers who determined what Americans were told about the lead-up to the Iraq war.

The shortcomings of Iraq coverage were not an aberration. Similar failure is a recurrent problem in times of national stress. The press was shamefully silent, for instance, when American citizens were removed from their homes and incarcerated solely because of their ancestry during World War II. Many in the press were cowed during McCarthyism’s heyday in the 1950s. Nor did the press dispute the case for the fact-challenged Gulf of Tonkin resolution that led to a greatly enlarged Vietnam war.

The press response to the build-up to the Iraq war simply is the latest manifestation of an underlying and ongoing reluctance to dissent from authority and prevailing opinion when emotions run high, especially on matters of war and peace, when the country most needs a questioning, vigorous press.

Foundations that invested in research into how and why the press behaved as it did on Iraq would make a profoundly important contribution.


Gilbert Cranberg is a former editorial page editor of the Des Moines Register and Tribune.
E-mail: gilcranberg@yahoo.com

http://www.niemanwatchdog.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=ask_this.view&askthisid=00261

Report Says Pentagon Manipulated Intel

Report Says Pentagon Manipulated Intel

By ROBERT BURNS
The Associated Press
Friday, February 9, 2007; 1:49 PM

WASHINGTON -- Pentagon officials undercut the intelligence community in the run-up to the U.S. invasion of Iraq by insisting in briefings to the White House that there was a clear relationship between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaida, the Defense Department's inspector general said Friday.

Acting Inspector General Thomas F. Gimble told the Senate Armed Services Committee that the office headed by former Pentagon policy chief Douglas J. Feith took "inappropriate" actions in advancing conclusions on al-Qaida connections not backed up by the nation's intelligence agencies.

Gimble said that while the actions of the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy "were not illegal or unauthorized," they "did not provide the most accurate analysis of intelligence to senior decision makers" at a time when the White House was moving toward war with Iraq.

"I can't think of a more devastating commentary," said Armed Services Committee Chairman Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich.

He cited Gimble's findings that Feith's office was, despite doubts expressed by the intelligence community, pushing conclusions that Sept. 11 hijacker Mohammed Atta had met an Iraqi intelligence officer in Prague five months before the attack, and that there were "multiple areas of cooperation" between Iraq and al-Qaida, including shared pursuit of weapons of mass destruction.

"That was the argument that was used to make the sale to the American people about the need to go to war," Levin said in an interview Thursday. He said the Pentagon's work, "which was wrong, which was distorted, which was inappropriate ... is something which is highly disturbing."

Rep. Ike Skelton, D-Mo., chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, said Friday the report "clearly shows that Doug Feith and others in that office exercised extremely poor judgment for which our nation, and our service members in particular, are paying a terrible price."

Republicans on the panel disagreed. Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., said the "probing questions" raised by Feith's policy group improved the intelligence process.

"I'm trying to figure out why we are here," said Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., saying the office was doing its job of analyzing intelligence that had been gathered by the CIA and other intelligence agencies.

Gimble responded that at issue was that the information supplied by Feith's office in briefings to the National Security Council and the office of Vice President Dick Cheney was "provided without caveats" that there were varying opinions on its reliability.

Gimble's report said Feith's office had made assertions "that were inconsistent with the consensus of the intelligence community."

At the White House, spokesman Dana Perino said President Bush has revamped the U.S. spy community to try avoiding a repeat of flawed intelligence affecting policy decisions by creating a director of national intelligence and making other changes.

"I think what he has said is that he took responsibility, and that the intel was wrong, and that we had to take measures to revamp the intel community to make sure that it never happened again," Perino told reporters.

Defense Department spokesman Bryan Whitman denied that the office was producing its own intelligence products, saying they were challenging what was coming in from intelligence-gathering professionals, "looking at it with a critical eye."

Some Democrats also have contended that Feith misled Congress about the basis of the administration's assertions on the threat posed by Iraq, but the Pentagon investigation did not support that.

In a telephone interview Thursday, Levin said the IG report is "very damning" and shows a Pentagon policy shop trying to shape intelligence to prove a link between al-Qaida and Saddam.

Levin in September 2005 had asked the inspector general to determine whether Feith's office's activities were appropriate, and if not, what remedies should be pursued.

The 2004 report from the Sept. 11 commission found no evidence of a collaborative relationship between Saddam and Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida terror organization before the U.S. invasion.

Asked to comment on the IG's findings, Feith said in a telephone interview that he had not seen the report but was pleased to hear that it concluded his office's activities were neither illegal nor unauthorized. He took strong issue, however, with the finding that some activities had been "inappropriate."

"The policy office has been smeared for years by allegations that its pre-Iraq-war work was somehow 'unlawful' or 'unauthorized' and that some information it gave to congressional committees was deceptive or misleading," said Feith, who left his Pentagon post in August 2005.

Feith called "bizarre" the inspector general's conclusion that some intelligence activities by the Office of Special Plans, which was created while Feith served as the undersecretary of defense for policy _ the top policy position under then-Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld _ were inappropriate but not unauthorized.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/02/09/AR2007020900689_pf.html

Paul Krugman - Edwards Gets It Right

Edwards Gets It Right

By PAUL KRUGMAN

What a difference two years makes! At this point in 2005, the only question seemed to be how much of America’s social insurance system — the triumvirate of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid — the Bush administration would manage to dismantle. Now almost all prominent Democrats and quite a few Republicans pay at least lip service to calls for a major expansion of social insurance, in the form of universal health care.

But fine words, by themselves, mean nothing. Remember “compassionate conservatism?” I won’t trust presidential candidates on health care unless they provide enough specifics to show both that they understand the issues, and that they’re willing to face up to hard choices when necessary.

And former Senator John Edwards has just set a fine example.

At first glance, the Edwards health care plan looks similar to several other proposals out there, including one recently unveiled by Arnold Schwarzenegger in California. But a closer look reveals extra features in the Edwards plan that take it a lot closer to what the country really needs.

Like Mr. Schwarzenegger, Mr. Edwards sets out to cover the uninsured with a combination of regulation and financial aid. Right now, many people are uninsured because, as the Edwards press release puts it, insurance companies “game the system to cover only healthy people.” So the Edwards plan, like Schwarzenegger’s, imposes “community rating” on insurers, basically requiring them to sell insurance to everyone at the same price.

Many other people are uninsured because they simply can’t afford the cost. So the Edwards plan, again like other proposals, offers financial aid to help lower-income families buy insurance. To pay for this aid, he proposes rolling back tax cuts for households with incomes over $200,000 a year.

Finally, some people try to save money by going without coverage, so if they get sick they end up in emergency rooms at public expense. Like other plans, the Edwards plan would “require all American residents to get insurance,” and would require that all employers either provide insurance to their workers or pay a percentage of their payrolls into a government fund used to buy insurance.

But Mr. Edwards goes two steps further.

People who don’t get insurance from their employers wouldn’t have to deal individually with insurance companies: they’d purchase insurance through “Health Markets”: government-run bodies negotiating with insurance companies on the public’s behalf. People would, in effect, be buying insurance from the government, with only the business of paying medical bills — not the function of granting insurance in the first place — outsourced to private insurers.

Why is this such a good idea? As the Edwards press release points out, marketing and underwriting — the process of screening out high-risk clients — are responsible for two-thirds of insurance companies’ overhead. With insurers selling to government-run Health Markets, not directly to individuals, most of these expenses should go away, making insurance considerably cheaper.

Better still, “Health Markets,” the press release says, “will offer a choice between private insurers and a public insurance plan modeled after Medicare.” This would offer a crucial degree of competition. The public insurance plan would almost certainly be cheaper than anything the private sector offers right now — after all, Medicare has very low overhead. Private insurers would either have to match the public plan’s low premiums, or lose the competition.

And Mr. Edwards is O.K. with that. “Over time,” the press release says, “the system may evolve toward a single-payer approach if individuals and businesses prefer the public plan.”

So this is a smart, serious proposal. It addresses both the problem of the uninsured and the waste and inefficiency of our fragmented insurance system. And every candidate should be pressed to come up with something comparable.

Yes, that includes Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. So far, all we have from Mr. Obama is inspiring rhetoric about universal care — that’s great, but how do we get there? And how do we know whether Mrs. Clinton, who says that she’s “not ready to be specific,” and that she wants to “build the consensus first,” will really be willing to take on this issue again?

To be fair, these are still early days. But America’s crumbling health care system is our most important domestic issue, and I think we have a right to know what those who would be president propose to do about it.

Pentagon says pre-war intel not illegal

Pentagon says pre-war intel not illegal
ROBERT BURNS
Associated Press

WASHINGTON - Some of the Pentagon's prewar intelligence work, including a contention that the CIA underplayed the likelihood of al-Qaida connections to Saddam Hussein, was inappropriate but not illegal, a Defense Department investigation has concluded.

In a report to be presented to Congress on Friday, the department's inspector general said former Pentagon policy chief Douglas J. Feith had not engaged in illegal activities through the creation of special offices to review intelligence. Some Democrats also have contended that Feith misled Congress about the basis of the administration's assertions on the threat posed by Iraq, but the Pentagon investigation did not support that.

Two people familiar with the findings discussed the main points and some details Thursday on condition they not be identified.

The Senate Armed Services Committee has scheduled a hearing Friday to receive the findings by Thomas F. Gimble, the Pentagon's acting inspector general. The committee's chairman, Carl Levin, D-Mich., has been a leading critic of Feith's role in prewar intelligence activities and has accused him of deceiving Congress.

Levin has asserted that President Bush took the country to war in Iraq based in part on intelligence assessments - some shaped by Feith's office - that were off base and did not fully reflect the views of the intelligence community.

In a telephone interview Thursday, Levin said the IG report is "very damning" and shows a Pentagon policy shop trying to shape intelligence to prove a link between al-Qaida and Saddam.

"That was the argument that was used to make the sale to the American people about the need to go to war," Levin said. "And the idea that this separate intelligence assessment, which was wrong, which was distorted, which was inappropriate for the reasons given here (by the IG) is something which is highly disturbing."

Levin also said it was a "red herring" to say that he or others in Congress claimed that any of Feith's activities had been illegal. Feith has said the accusation that he misled Congress was, by definition, a claim that he had acted illegally.

Levin in September 2005 asked the inspector general to determine whether Feith's offices' activities were appropriate. If deemed inappropriate, the inspector general should recommend remedial action, Levin said then. Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., who was chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee at the time, separately asked the inspector general to decide on legality as well as appropriateness.

The 2004 report from the Sept. 11 Commission found no evidence of a collaborative relationship between Saddam and Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida terror organization before the U.S. invasion.

Asked to comment on the IG's findings, Feith said in a telephone interview that he had not seen the report but was pleased to hear that it concluded his office's activities were neither illegal nor unauthorized. He took strong issue, however, with the IG's finding that some activities had been "inappropriate."

"The policy office has been smeared for years by allegations that its pre-Iraq-war work was somehow `unlawful' or `unauthorized' and that some information it gave to congressional committees was deceptive or misleading," Feith said.

Feith called "bizarre" the inspector general's conclusion that some intelligence activities by the Office of Special Plans, which was created while Feith served as the undersecretary of defense for policy - the top policy position under Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld - were inappropriate but not unauthorized.

"Clearly, the inspector general's office was willing to challenge the policy office and even stretch some points to be able to criticize it," Feith said, adding that he felt this amounted to subjective "quibbling" by the IG.

Feith left his Pentagon post in August 2005 and now teaches at Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service. He has maintained throughout the controversy over the role of the Office of Special Plans, as well as other small groups that were created after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, that their intelligence activities were prudent, authorized and useful in challenging some of the intelligence analysis of the CIA.

At the center of the prewar intelligence controversy was the work of a small number of Pentagon officials from Feith's office and the office of Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz who reviewed CIA intelligence analyses and put together their own report. When they briefed Rumsfeld on their report in August 2002 - a period when Vice President Dick Cheney and other administration officials were ratcheting up their warnings about the gravity of the Iraq threat - Rumsfeld directed them to also brief CIA Director George Tenet.

Their presentation, which included assertions about links between al-Qaida and the Iraqi government, contained a criticism that the intelligence community was ignoring or underplaying its own raw reports on such potential links.

The controversy has simmered for several years. The Senate Intelligence Committee included the Office of Special Plans in its investigation into the prewar intelligence on Iraq, but the committee did not finish that portion of its work when it released the first part of its findings in July 2004.

In a dissenting view attached to the committee's report, three Democratic senators, including Levin, said that Pentagon policymakers sought to undermine the analysis of the intelligence community by circumventing the CIA and briefing their own views directly to the White House. This was a particular problem when the spy agencies' judgments did not conform to the administration's dire views on Iraqi links to al-Qaida, the senators said.

Later, two senators - Levin and Pat Roberts, R-Kan. - separately asked the Pentagon's inspector general to review the role of Feith's office. It was not immediately clear whether the intelligence committee would press ahead with its own investigation, or if the inspector general's report would suffice.

In a response last month to a draft of the IG's report, Feith's successor as undersecretary of defense for policy, Eric Edelman, wrote that the activity deemed by the IG to be "inappropriate" was actually "an exercise in alternative thinking" conducted at Wolfowitz's direction.

Edelman wrote that the IG had misinterpreted "what the (Pentagon's) work actually was - namely, a critical assessment by OSD (Office of the Secretary of Defense) for policy purposes of IC (Intelligence Community) reporting and finished IC products on contacts between Iraq and al-Qaida."

http://www.mercurynews.com/mld/mercurynews/news/special_packages/iraq/16654759.htm

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Former U.S. attorney says he was ordered to resign

Former U.S. attorney says he was ordered to resign

By GENE JOHNSON
AP LEGAL AFFAIRS WRITER

SEATTLE -- Former U.S. Attorney John McKay told The Associated Press on Wednesday that his resignation last month was ordered by the Bush administration, which gave him no explanation for the firing.

"I was ordered to resign as U.S. attorney on Dec. 7 by the Justice Department," McKay, who had led the department's Western Washington office, said in a telephone interview from Washington, D.C. "I was given no explanation. I certainly was told of no performance issues."

McKay previously had said only that he was resigning because it was time for him to move on. His comments came one day after Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty acknowledged to the Senate Judiciary Committee that the Justice Department has fired seven U.S. attorneys in the West in the past year, most of them for "performance-related" reasons he would not divulge.

The dismissals have been heavily criticized by Democratic lawmakers.

"John McKay has worked diligently for our region and it is deeply disconcerting that he could have been let go for political reasons," said Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash. "Congress and the American people have no tolerance for the politicization of the U.S. attorney's office."

Robert Lasnik, the chief U.S. District Court judge for the Western District of Washington, said he and his fellow judges could not understand the firing and were dismayed that the Justice Department implied there was anything wrong with McKay's performance.

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"This is unanimous among the judges: John McKay was a superb U.S. attorney," Lasnik said. "For the Justice Department to suggest otherwise is just not fair."

"By every measure, the performance of his office improved during his tenure," Lasnik added. "If you talk to local prosecutors, or local sheriffs, or the FBI or the ATF, they never had the kind of service from the U.S. attorney's office in terms of service, cooperation and aggressive handling of cases that they had under John McKay's leadership. We're busier than ever before because they're bringing more cases."

McKay's office filed charges against twice as many defendants last year as it did in 2001, the year he was nominated by President Bush and confirmed by the Senate.

McKay announced his resignation in mid-December, about the same time he received word that he would not be nominated to the federal bench in Seattle. His last day on the job was Jan. 26, and he took a job teaching a course on constitutional law and terrorism at Seattle University Law School.

The U.S. attorney is the top federal law enforcement officer in Seattle and makes decisions on which cases to prosecute in the Western District of Washington. McKay had personally argued on the government's behalf in the sentencing and appeal of Ahmed Ressam, who was convicted of plotting to blow up Los Angeles International Airport on the eve of the millennium.

The 22-year sentence Ressam received was less than McKay sought. On appeal, a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals threw out both the sentence and one of the charges Ressam was convicted of. Federal prosecutors are expected to ask a full 15-judge 9th Circuit Court panel to rehear the appeal.

King County Prosecutor Norm Maleng, who is heading a committee to help select McKay's permanent replacement, said McKay's pursuit of terror suspects, from Ressam to a local group that sought to establish a terrorist training camp in Bly, Ore., was a hallmark of his tenure, as was improving communication between state and federal law enforcement.

"That statement that it was 'performance-related,' no one can understand what was meant by that," Maleng said. "It isn't just that he did a good job. He did an outstanding job."

Tom Hillier, the federal public defender in Seattle who represented Ressam, said he was surprised, too.

"If this was done for political reasons, it shows a fundamental disrespect for the independence of the U.S. attorneys," Hillier said. "It's definitely bad policy for an administration to be accepting resignations for what it sees as performance issues, particularly if they're not giving any information about what those issues are. John McKay vigorously enforced the laws in this district."

McKay declined to say whether he had made any politically charged comments that might have drawn the ire of Justice Department officials. All U.S. attorneys serve at the pleasure of the president and may be dismissed for any reason, or no reason at all.

Jeffrey C. Sullivan, chief of the criminal division in the U.S. attorney's office for Western Washington, was named to be interim U.S. attorney for the district.

A provision in the reauthorization of the Patriot Act allows the attorney general to appoint U.S. attorneys indefinitely without Senate confirmation, but Attorney General Alberto Gonzales has promised to submit all of his choices for confirmation.

Last year, the U.S. attorney in Arkansas, H.E. Bud Cummins, was ordered to resign without cause, McNulty acknowledged Tuesday. Cummins was replaced by J. Timothy Griffin, a former aide to presidential counselor Karl Rove and a former military prosecutor.

http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/local/6420AP_WA_US_Attorney_Seattle.html

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Bush's uncle tangled in options probe: SEC

Bush's uncle tangled in options probe: SEC
Wed Feb 7, 2007 5:30 PM ET

By Tim McLaughlin

NEW YORK (Reuters) - President George W. Bush's uncle, William H.T. "Bucky" Bush, was part of a group of outside directors at a defense contractor who realized about $6 million in unauthorized pay from an options backdating scheme, according to U.S. securities investigators.

Bush and other non-employee directors who served on the board of Engineered Support Systems Inc., now owned by DRS Technologies Inc., are not accused of any wrongdoing in a civil complaint filed on Tuesday by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

The SEC complaint, however, says the non-employee directors benefited from stock options not approved by shareholders.

"As a result, the company provided significant additional compensation to its outside directors beyond what shareholders had approved," the SEC complaint said. "These same directors later realized approximately $6 million from the exercise of their addtional stock options."

The complaint did not break out how much Bush and the other outside directors received from a total of 132,000 shares of unauthorized shares.

Bush, whose brother is former President George H.W. Bush, was unavailable for comment. He served on St. Louis-based ESSI's board from 2000 until the St. Louis defense contractor was acquired last year for nearly $2 billion by DRS, which sells engineering services to the U.S. military.

Bush served on ESSI's audit committee and received $2,500 a month in consulting fees, an arrangement that later was ended for him and other outside directors. Bush also received a fixed amount of ESSI shares each year for his work on the board.

Before the DRS deal was approved in January 2006, Bush held ESSI shares worth $3.8 million, SEC filings show.

Between 1995 and early 2005, ESSI's stock climbed nearly 900 percent as the company sold cargo loaders, generators and trailers to the Pentagon. ESSI's board was politically connected and included several retired generals.

The SEC on Tuesday accused ESSI's former chief financial officer, Gary C. Gerhardt, and former controller, Steven J. Landmann, of orchestrating a backdating scheme that spanned six years. In all, executives and directors netted $20 million in unauthorized pay, according to the complaint filed in U.S. District Court in St. Louis.

Outside directors received backdated options issued in 1996, 1998, 1999 and 2001, the SEC complaint alleges.

Landmann has agreed to give back about $519,000 in option-related compensation while paying $367,585 in penalties and interest. He did not admit or deny the SEC allegations, and will be permanently barred from serving as an officer of publicly-traded company.

Records unsealed in federal court in St. Louis late last year show that the SEC is investigating Michael F. Shanahan Sr., who co-founded ESSI; his son, who served on the board's compensation committee; and Shanahan Sr.'s son-in-law, David Mattern, who was general counsel.

The SEC wants the Shanahans and Mattern to produce e-mails, meeting notes, telephone logs and board meeting minutes related to the pricing of Engineered Support stock options, court papers show.

The SEC's complaint against Gerhardt said nearly half of the unauthorized and undisclosed gains from options backdating, or about $8.6 million, went to Shanahan Sr. He has not been charged by the SEC.

Court records also show there is an ongoing criminal investigation that mirrors, in part, the SEC's probe.

http://today.reuters.com/news/articlenews.aspx?type=topNews&storyid=2007-02-07T222949Z_01_N07471273_RTRUKOC_0_US-OPTIONS-SEC-BUSH.xml

After many denials, US Army confirms private security contract in Iraq

After many denials, US Army confirms private security contract in Iraq

The Associated Press
Wednesday, February 7, 2007
Click here to find out more!
WASHINGTON

After numerous denials, the Pentagon has confirmed that a North Carolina company provided armed security guards in Iraq under a subcontract that was buried so deeply the government could not find it.

The secretary of the Army on Tuesday wrote two Democratic lawmakers that the Blackwater USA contract was part of a huge military support operation by run by Halliburton subsidiary KBR.

Vice President Dick Cheney ran Halliburton before he became vice president.

Several times last year, Pentagon officials told inquiring lawmakers they could find no evidence of the Blackwater contract. Blackwater, of Moyock, North Carolina, did not respond to several requests for comment.

The discovery shows the dense world of Iraq contracting, where the main contractor hires subcontractors who then hire additional subcontractors. Each company tacks on a charge for overhead, a cost that works its way up to U.S. taxpayers.

"This ongoing episode demonstrates the Pentagon's complete failure to safeguard taxpayer dollars," said Democratic Rep. Chris Van Hollen, one of the lawmakers who had asked about the Blackwater contract and received denials.

"They continue to look the other way in the face of overwhelming evidence that Halliburton was charging taxpayers for unauthorized security services," Van Hollen said.

The hidden contract not only cost taxpayers money, it also might have been illegal. The Halliburton subsidiary's main contract for military support services prohibited hiring subcontractors to provide armed security. That job is left to the U.S. military, unless the theater commander decides otherwise.

Democratic Rep. Henry Waxman, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, scheduled a hearing Wednesday on the Blackwater contract.

Waxman has cited examples in news reports that Blackwater paid employees $600 (€463) a day, and those charges increased to $1,500 (€1,158) a day by the time several layers of subcontractors tacked on their charges to the main contractor.

Waxman is at the forefront of Democrats who want to investigate fraud, waste and abuse in the Bush administration, and on Tuesday he promised two years of such scrutiny.

On Tuesday, Army Secretary Francis Harvey wrote Van Hollen and Waxman that on Jan. 30 the Army learned that ESS Support Services Worldwide, a dining facilities subcontractor under the KBR contract, hired Blackwater.

ESS did not hire Blackwater directly, but did so through a hotel company, further obscuring the contract.

Harvey further said the security costs were not itemized anywhere, yet were factored into ESS' labor costs under KBR's contract, which in turn is financed by U.S. taxpayers.

"The U.S. Army is continuing to investigate this matter and we are committed to providing full disclosure of the results of our investigations to the committee," he wrote.

In July Harvey sent a letter to Republican Rep. Christopher Shays, then chairman of the committee's national security subcommittee, that cited KBR as saying it never had directly hired a private security contractor under its overall support contract.

Harvey added that KBR "has queried ESS and they are unaware of any services under the ... contract that were provided by Blackwater USA."

In September, an Army procurement official, Tina Ballard, appeared before the committee and said she verified that Harvey's prior letter — asserting that no contract could be found — was correct.

Van Hollen held up a copy of Blackwater's contract at the hearing, and Ballard still contended Blackwater provided no services to the Halliburton subsidiary.

At the end of November, the lawmakers received further evidence that the Pentagon was wrong. The parent firm of ESS, responding to questions posed by Republican committee staff, confirmed that it used Blackwater for security under the contract with Halliburton's subsidiary.

Van Hollen and Waxman pressed the Pentagon again, leading to the Army secretary's admission Tuesday that the contract existed.

Blackwater employees have suffered heavy casualties in Iraq. In 2004 an Iraqi mob killed four employees, dragged their bodies through the streets of Fallujah and hung two from a bridge.

In September 2005, the company said three of its employees were killed in Mosul.

And last month, Blackwater confirmed that five of its employees were killed in a helicopter that went down in Baghdad under heavy fire.

___

On the Net:

House Oversight and Government Reform Committee: http://oversight.house.gov

http://www.iht.com/articles/ap/2007/02/07/america/NA-GEN-US-Iraq-Contracts.php

Congressman: Where Are Tons Of Cash?

Congressman: Where Are Tons Of Cash?
$12 Billion For Iraq Unaccounted For


WASHINGTON -- House Democrats, taking charge of investigations now that they control Congress, grilled the former U.S. occupation chief in Iraq on Tuesday about the way he doled out billions of Iraqi dollars without accounting for the money.

L. Paul Bremer III, with support from Republicans, fired back by insisting he did the best he could in the middle of a war and repeating over and over that he was spending Iraqi -- not U.S. -- money.

The hearing by the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform scrutinized the chaotic days that began after a burning and looted Baghdad fell to U.S. troops four years ago. Bremer ran the country for 14 months.
Click here to find out more!

However, the days of the Coalition Provisional Authority seemed like a distant past compared with a simultaneous Senate hearing -- where Defense Secretary Robert Gates spoke of the situation today, including the hope of a U.S. troop withdrawal before year's end.

The significance of the House hearing came when Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Henry Waxman, D-Calif., promised two years of investigations of fraud, waste and abuse on the Bush administration's watch.

Democrats are planning dozens of investigations, many of them in Waxman's committee, which scheduled further hearings this week on homeland security contracts and drug prices.

Bremer Defended

The hearing presented two divergent views of what financial controls were possible in an Iraqi capital with no functioning national government.

Waxman and a hearing witness, special inspector general for Iraq Stuart Bowen Jr., criticized Bremer for failing to install accounting systems that would have forced Iraqi ministries to account for up to $12 billion in Iraq's funds. The money came from a United Nations Oil For Food program and seized Iraqi assets, but fell under Bremer's control.

"Without strong standards, we have no way of knowing whether the cash could end up in enemy hands," said Waxman.

Bremer countered, "I arrived in Baghdad at a time when much of the city was burning. Looting was still widespread. My responsibilities were to kickstart the economy."

Former committee chairman Tom Davis, R-Va., now the senior minority member, defended Bremer and criticized Waxman.

He said Waxman was rushing to "old judgments" in a hearing that was "old news."

Bowen, responding to Bremer's assertions that he was operating without a functioning Iraqi government, said, "That situation screams for more oversight, more controls." But the inspector general told the hearing he couldn't say whether insurgents got any of the funds.

Bremer painted the bleakest possible picture of the situation he faced.

Looters were running wild. Buildings were burning. Competent government officials had fled or were on the run. Civil servants had not been paid for months. Banks were closed and only cash would keep the economy from total collapse.

Tons Of Cash Flown To Baghdad

Waxman said up to $12 billion in Iraqi money was converted to dollars, held in the Federal Reserve Bank in New York and shipped in pallets to Baghdad that totaled 363 tons.

"Millions of Iraqi families depended on civil service salaries and pensions," Bremer said. "It was clear we had to get this Iraqi money in the hands of people immediately."

Bremer acknowledged that he and the U.S. government made mistakes. He said he mistakenly described the Iraqi Army as being disbanded -- leaving an incorrect impression because "there was not a single unit of the Iraqi army standing in place. "

He said too many government workers were fired because he mistakenly let Iraqis carry out his policy of dismissing only 1 percent of the government officials under Saddam Hussein.

And Bremer said he believed from the start that the best way to provide security was to increase the number of U.S. troops beyond the numbers sent to Iraq.

Cost Of War Detailed

In related news, the Department of Defense said Monday that the war on terrorism has cost $545 billion to date.

Pentagon Comptroller Tina Jonas told reporters that Congress has appropriated $452 billion for the war on terrorism via emergency supplemental budget measures.

Another $3 billion has been appropriated for Operation Noble Eagle, the mission providing a combat air patrol over the continental United States and security at airports that started after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, she said.

The comptroller said the department is asking for another $93.4 billion as part of the emergency supplemental request for 2007.

She projected $141.7 billion in operational expenses in fiscal 2008. This will bring the total for the war on terrorism to about $690 billion.

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

http://www.nbc11.com/politics/10946923/detail.html

Bremer Paid "Ghost Employees" To Avoid "Real Trouble"

Paul Bremer told members of Congress today that he was aware that nonexistent "ghost employees" were on America's payroll when he was administrator of the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq in 2003 and 2004.

But because the real employees - who provided security for Iraqi ministries - were "74,000 armed men, it seemed a lesser risk to continue paying" everyone while trying to figure out who was actually showing up for work.

"On the streets, you'd call that protection money," remarked Congressman Danny Davis, an Illinois Democrat. When Davis asked whether any of that money had wound up in the hands of insurgents, Bremer said he didn't know. But "if we stopped paying them, my judgment was we could have real trouble."

Stuart Bowen, the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, also testified before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform today, and told the panel that the problem of ghost employees was not a major reason that $8.8 billion distributed to Iraqi ministries is unaccounted for.

The real problem, Bowen said, was a general lack of transparency: the only accounting Americans asked for was assurance from the various ministries that the money was indeed being spent. The Coalition also failed to follow its own rules on securing money sent to Iraq; in one case, Bowen said auditors found the key to a safe containing a huge amount of cash left in a duffel bag left in plain view in the Coalition comptroller's office.

But Bremer argued that a number of the accounting problems were actually due to the fact that "we had no idea" how hobbled the economy and infrastructure had been in Saddam's Iraq. "It's a fair question to ask why we didn't know more about how run-down the economy was. They were focused on the WMDs, though we didn't get that right, either."

He also faulted pre-war planning, and said he did not have anywhere near enough staff to do the job: "If we'd been focused on the basis of a plan, we would have been more in touch with reality" from the first.

But Bremer has backed the Bush administration's proposal to send more troops to Iraq.

When auditors first confirmed that there were ghost employees in a couple of ministries, "we asked what they had done about it," Bowen said, "and they said they had made the decision to keep paying it, to keep the peace." In one ministry, about 25 percent of the total 8,200 could not be "validated," - matched with a person, Bowen said. In another, "just a fraction" of the 1,400 employees could be located.

After the committee chairman, California Democrat Henry Waxman, said that continuing to pay ghost employees struck him as reckless, Bremer responded that the only alternative, as he saw it, was "74,000 armed men who are angry at us," if payments were held up for any reason. "I would certainly do it again today."

Waxman also questioned the wisdom of sending billions in cash to Baghdad - 363 tons of bills, sent in enormous pallets via military planes and passed out from the back of pickup trucks.

But Bremer, unruffled throughout the hearing, said he was responding to an urgent request from the Iraqi minister of finance, who wanted the cash delivered ahead of the planned handoff to his own government.

"He said, "I am concerned that I will not have the money to support the Iraqi government expenses for the first couple of months after we are sovereign. We won't have the mechanisms in place. I won't know how to get the money here.'"

Republicans on the committee repeatedly defended Bremer's decisions: "Maybe even billions were not spent the way it should have been spent," said Christopher Shays, a Connecticut Republican. "And I'm not happy about that, but tell me how he could've gotten that money out" where it was needed otherwise. "The Iraqis spent the money badly, right?"

Democrats on the committee also wondered why the president was asking American taxpayers for $1.7 billion more for reconstruction in Iraq when Iraq has not spent $12 billion it has already been sent for that purpose." "Perhaps," Waxman suggested, "That's to pay for ghost employees."

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2007/02/06/bremer-paid-ghost-employ_n_40595.html

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Cheney’s Son-In-Law Blamed for Delaying Investigations of Homeland Security Department

Cheney’s Son-In-Law Blamed for Delaying Investigations of Homeland Security Department

The Department of Homeland Security refuses to cooperate on oversight activities, according to testimony offered today by GAO Comptroller General David Walker and Homeland Security Inspector General Richard Skinner. The investigators highlighted the role of Philip Perry — Chief Counsel of the Department of Homeland Security and Vice President Cheney’s son-in-law — as the major stumbling block in their investigations.

Walker said the DHS strategy in dealing with investigations is to “delay, delay, delay.” CongressDaily reports:

“[Homeland Security] has been one of our persistent access challenges,” GAO Comptroller General David Walker told the House Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee. Walker said the problem is “systemic” and not the fault of any single individual. But he complained that GAO has had to go through the office of Chief Counsel Philip Perry. Perry is married to Elizabeth Cheney, a former State Department official who is one of the vice president’s two daughters. Walker said it is his understanding that Perry’s office has to review documents GAO seeks before they are released and that Perry selectively sits in on interviews with department employees.

The GAO’s Skinner “said his investigations have also been hindered”:

“We’re experiencing the same problem,” said Skinner, who added his office is “oftentimes” told who they can interview and that it sometimes takes weeks to get documents. Skinner said he prepared a document last summer to inform all department employees of the IG’s responsibilities and authorities and encouraging them to cooperate with investigations. “That letter has been sitting up in counsel’s office at DHS since I believe June or July of ‘06,” Skinner said.

The news is another in a series of black eyes for the agency. In a recent federal survey, DHS employees “scored last or almost last in job satisfaction, leadership and workplace performance.” The latest semiannual report from Inspector General Skinner highlighted “a litany of staff misconduct: immigration officials demanding sex in exchange for visas, airport screeners stealing money from tourists’ luggage, federal air marshals smuggling drugs, and employees from various DHS agencies committing sex crimes.”

http://thinkprogress.org/2007/02/06/perry-homeland-security/

Giuliani the Authoritarian Narcissist

Two parts hubris, one part paranoia
9/11 gave America amnesia about the real Rudy Giuliani. He's an authoritarian narcissist -- and we don't need another one of those in the White House.

By Cintra Wilson

Dec. 05, 2006 | There is something deranged about you ... this excessive concern with little weasels is a sickness ... you should go consult a psychologist or a psychiatrist with this excessive concern, how you are devoting your life to weasels. You need somebody to help you. There are people in this city and in this world that need a lot of help. Something has gone wrong with you.

-- New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani on his radio show, to a ferret advocate, after imposing New York's 2001 ferret ban

There is at least one nice thing one can say about former New York mayor and current Republican presidential hopeful Rudolph Giuliani -- besides, of course, his penchant for dressing in drag, his love for opera, and the fact that he used to share an apartment with a gay man.

On 9/11, all Americans were frightened children, and in a moment of mythic personal heroism, Mayor Giuliani filled the gaping leadership void. The president looked like a petrified chimp; Cheney was spirited to an underground bunker. Only Giuliani could pull himself together sufficiently to get on TV in the midst of the wreckage and show America that a grown-up was still breathing. On that terrible day our reptile brains looked at Rudy Giuliani and said, "We're OK now. Daddy's home."

And we forgot, some for a moment, some permanently, that Daddy was psycho.

The attack on the twin towers blew a hole in downtown Manhattan and in our collective memory. Osama bin Laden and company did a better P.R. job for Giuliani than spin ghouls Hill & Knowlton ever did for Dick Nixon. He made everyone but the most grouchy and resentful New Yorkers forget that before planes crashed into the World Trade Center, Rudy was a hyper-authoritarian narcissist with a lust for overkill verging on the sociopathic.

And now, at a time when the machinations of another hubristic bully have brought an unprecedented expansion of the powers of the presidency, "America's Mayor" may be our next chief executive. He is neck and neck with John McCain when Americans are asked their preference for the next occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. It is alarming to think that the murky dealings and totalitarian tendencies that have marred the current administration could flourish even more under another control-junkie Republican. It is even more frightening to think what a commander in chief who already has a violent record of abusing authority could do with the unrestrained might of a geopolitical superpower. Given Giuliani's historic willingness to take Spanish Inquisition-style action against threats both real and imaginary, is anyone in doubt that it is every American's duty to keep Rudolph Giuliani as far from the White House as possible?

His political career may have been defined by his willingness to confront scary bogeymen, but during slower periods when there were no obvious villains around, Giuliani's interpretations of who or what constituted an immediate threat became increasingly bizarre, personal, puritanical and dangerous. Before the planes hit, when he had too much power and not enough to do, Giuliani, like an old soldier who comes home and starts abusing his family in lieu of a real enemy, was pulling a Great Santini on New York, rooting around in our sock drawers with a Maglite, looking for vices to confiscate and sins to punish. By the mid-'90s, Mayor Rudy was abusing authority according to the whims of his own paranoid, hyper-defensive personality disorder in way that would have made Tiberius self-conscious.

As his second term wound down, New Yorkers knew what Rudy was, and they were sick of it. In 1999, they rejected his caudillo-style attempt to amend the city's (relatively new) term-limit law so he could serve another four years. By May 2000, with crime at historic lows, the city's economy still aglow, real estate prices soaring -- the kind of external factors that normally make politicians untouchable -- his approval rating had slid to a Bush-oid 37 percent, according to a Quinnipiac University poll. In December 2001, when Giuliani finally stepped down -- after trying and failing to exploit his post 9/11 popularity by passing a special law that would've added three months to his reign) -- the New York Times interrupted its elegy for the Rudy years with a sober reminder. "The suppression of dissent," noted the Times, "or of anything that irked the mayor, became a familiar theme."

Rudy's character flaws were evident at the very beginning of his public career. Before he ran for mayor the first time (and lost) in 1989, Giuliani had a shining Tom Dewey-esque reputation as a giant-killing prosecutor. Among the reporters who followed him, he also had a reputation for inflating his own accomplishments and using his power to humiliate people.

While U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, he nabbed Wall Street inside traders like Ivan Boesky -- that was good. But then Giuliani had to go the extra vainglorious mile of adding a signature "perp walk" photo-op to his arrests. He publicly shamed his defendants, and fed his tough-guy image, by marching them out of their offices in handcuffs through a gauntlet of tipped-off reporters. He decimated New York's five big mob families by applying the federal RICO statutes early and often, but he also tried to take credit for a strategy that was already in effect before he took office.

When he became mayor in 1994, his personality disorders reached full flower. As a boy growing up in Brooklyn, young Rudy was torn between the priesthood and the law, opting for the latter. Though being a prosecutor did allow him to be both censorious and powerful, which he clearly enjoyed, the job of mayor was a dreamlike fusion of his two childhood ambitions. He was like a pope with a gun.

He also quickly set about undermining his own most notable accomplishment. Prior to 9/11, Giuliani was best known for the remarkable decline in New York's crime rate during his tenure. Many have questioned whether Giuliani's hardcore policing methods were really responsible for New York's metamorphosis. The crack epidemic had ended, the economy had rebounded, and New York had hired thousands of new cops and changed its policing style under Rudy's much-derided predecessor, David Dinkins. What is certainly true is that some of the city's success in fighting crime was despite Giuliani, instead of because of him.

Giuliani hired Bill Bratton as police commissioner, and Bratton put together a team of cops who transformed the way America polices itself. Deputy Commissioner Jack Maple had invented a statistics-based system called Compstat that entailed "flooding the zone" with cops in whatever physical location showed an uptick in crime. As head of the city's transit cops Bratton had applied the "broken windows" theory, which posits that cracking down on petty crimes catches perps guilty of bigger crimes and sends a message of order, and had cleaned up the subways. Together, Compstat and "broken windows" and Bratton's team helped push New York's crime numbers down.

They also pushed Bratton to center stage, and that drove Rudy crazy. Only a year into Rudy's first term, when Bratton was praised in the pages of the New Yorker, NYPD press spokesman John Miller was asked to downsize his staff of 35. The former ABC newsman refused, saying he wouldn't be "a loyal Nazi," and quit.

In 1996, Bratton's face appeared on the cover of Time. Giuliani got rid of him. He also, apparently, initiated an investigation into whether a Bratton book deal constituted a conflict of interest. It was speculated that Rudy fired the man many called the nation's best police chief because he was, simply, insanely jealous.

To replace Bratton, Giuliani brought in Howard Safir -- a move that alienated the remaining players on Team Bratton, particularly Bratton's No. 2 man, John Timoney. When a visibly dismayed Timoney referred to Safir as a "lightweight," Giuliani, in a move that would set the tone for his zero-tolerance policy toward dissent, first tried to demote Timoney to captain, then forced Timoney out of office, ordering him to take a leave of absence until his retirement. Jack Maple, the man responsible for Compstat, resigned days later.

Giuliani, having destroyed what might have been the best management team in NYPD history, had to start from scratch. Bratton's successors continued using the tactics of the men Rudy had canned, but twisted and distorted them. Giuliani and Safir, in trying to one-up the strategic balance of the Bratton team's approach to law enforcement, opted to jack up the "enforcement" and not pay so much attention to the "law."

Safir's NYPD beefed up the Street Crime Unit, a corps of hyper-macho officers once described by the Village Voice's Nat Hentoff as "a rogue police operation whose members make Clint Eastwood's Dirty Harry look like Mahatma Gandhi." They were given leeway to enact "stop-and-frisks" of ordinary citizens -- supposedly to discourage them from carrying guns. While Safir's office implemented easier arrestee processing methods, New York's nonwhite citizens became increasingly alarmed by a police force they perceived as hostile, overzealous and racist. Go figure: members of the Street Crime Unit, Hentoff reported, delighted in wearing T-shirts emblazoned with such intimidating slogans as "We Own the Night!" and the Hemingway quote, "There is no hunting like the hunting of man, and those who have hunted armed men long enough and like it never care for anything else."

In two years, the Street Crime Unit officially reported 40,000 stop-and-frisk confrontations, but only 9,500 of those searched were arrested. In a radio interview, Attorney General Eliot Spitzer was alarmed enough by these stats to tell WNYC's Brian Lehrer: "I've spoken to many officers who say they do not fill out the required forms for every stop-and-frisk. They may fill out one in five or one in 10. We may have several hundred thousands of these police actions without arrests."

Inevitably, perhaps, "the hunting of man" resulted in the killing of man. In 1999, unarmed African immigrant Amadou Diallo, mistaken for a rape suspect, was shot 41 times by Safir's Street Crime Unit while he fumbled for his keys at his own doorway.

Giuliani's response was callous. He refused to meet with black leaders for a month -- then again, he pretty much always refused to meet with black leaders. And he absolutely refused to reconsider his police department's policies. But it was his response to the killing of another young black man a year later that was, perhaps, his Katrina moment with the New York public.

In 2000, 26-year-old Patrick Dorismond was shot and killed by an undercover detective participating in Operation Condor. The cop had approached Dorismond to ask where he could buy marijuana. Dorismond was offended, a scuffle ensued, and Dorismond died.

In the outcry following Dorismond's death, Giuliani was snide and unapologetic. He released Dorismond's juvenile records to justify Dorismond's homicide eight years later. He also, famously, sneered that Dorismond was "no altar boy" and defended his comments with a breathlessly cynical legalism, saying it was impossible to libel the dead.

"The Dorismond case has focused dissatisfaction on the Mayor," said Maurice Carroll, director of the Quinnipiac College Polling Institute. "Ninety percent of New Yorkers know something about the case, and only 16 percent of New Yorkers approve of the Mayor's public response to this incident."

Rudy's treatment of Dorismond -- who had, in fact, been an altar boy -- was evidence of what had become Rudy's signature trait. He smashed ants with a hammer. He went absolutely nuclear on anyone who suggested for one second that anything he had done might be open to question. He humiliated people just as he had humiliated Wall Street's supposed bad guys 15 years before.

Giuliani called his critics jerks, Marxists and fuzzy-headed liberals. He accused them of having psychological problems. He denigrated and gay-baited schools chancellor Ramon Cortines, calling him "precious" and a "little victim."

In 1997 a man named James Schillaci, who took a videotape exposing the existence of an NYPD speed trap in the Bronx, was crushed like a bug. After Schillaci took his evidence to the New York Daily News, the NYPD went to his apartment and hauled him off to jail for unpaid traffic tickets. A police spokesperson described Schillaci as a sex offender because of sodomy and burglary charges against him from years before. The traffic tickets were dismissed, just as the sodomy and burglary charges had been dropped. Giuliani said, "There is nothing to apologize for."

That was the same year Giuliani officially adopted a zero-tolerance policy toward any and all criticism and satire aimed at himself. He had the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority remove an ad for New York magazine from city buses that joked that the magazine was "Possibly the only good thing in New York Rudy hasn't taken credit for." A U.S. District Court judge slapped Rudy down for his inability to take a joke or tolerate the First Amendment; the ban was lifted. But this only seemed to encourage him even further in his delusion of being Warrior Christ of the Apocalypse-elect.

His policy of humiliating and intimidating his critics finally extended to his own household. Giuliani could, in fact, have learned something from the wise guys he used to bust about how to keep a mistress without embarrassing the missus. In 2000, the second Mrs. Giuliani, newscaster Donna Hanover, had to obtain a court order to stop him from bringing girlfriend Judith Nathan to Gracie Mansion, where she and Rudy's children were still living. Rudy struck back by announcing his separation to the press before telling his wife. Donna had a press conference outside the mansion in which she accused the mayor of also cheating on her with his former press secretary, Christyne Lategano, though that wasn't news to any of the reporters in attendance. Rudy had the last word. The wife and kids were eventually booted out of said mansion, and Judy Nathan became his third wife.

In any case, despite the temper tantrums, the abuses of power and the ritual shaming of opponents, there came a time in the '90s when New York was, admittedly, relatively clean. But once the major vermin were more or less under control, Giuliani kept on cleaning. And cleaning. And cleaning. Like Martha Stewart on her hands and knees in her four-star hotel bathroom in the middle of the night, scrubbing the tiles with Ajax brought in her own luggage.

Cops under Giuliani and Safir enforced, with excessive gusto, a heavy-handed crackdown on graffiti, subway turnstile jumping, street artists, jaywalking, public drinking, public urination, peaceful protest demonstrations and the squeegee men who washed windshields at stoplights.

While it was certainly less life-threatening to be white in New York during the Giuliani administration, everyone I knew at one point had either a first- or secondhand tale of police behaving in a Kafkaesque fashion, under the mayor many had nicknamed Il Duce -- or "a small man in search of a balcony," as newspaper columnist Jimmy Breslin memorably called him. I was once on the receiving end of a profanity-laced verbal tirade and nearly arrested by a particularly aggressive cop when I passed a plywood wall with a poster advertising a Celine Dion concert, and drew a moustache on it.....in chalk.

During the Giuliani era, it was routine police procedure to handcuff and jail New Yorkers over minor infractions like smoking a joint in public, and then to drop charges. If you wanted to prosecute the police for misconduct after such an experience, you couldn't do so without opening your own case back up. Job suicide, in today's fundamentalist corporate atmosphere -- still, nearly 70,000 people filed lawsuits against the New York Police Department during Giuliani's two terms as mayor, claiming they were strip-searched for offenses as minor as jaywalking.

Martial law, anyone?

But, other than the moustache, those were often "offenses" that someone (not me) might plausibly argue were harmful to society. Rudy's prosecutorial bent began to turn toward more the more invisible, personal sins of the city, as if he could no longer differentiate between his personal ethics and the law. With a righteous puritanical zeal that would impress any closeted homosexual televangelist, Rudy sought to remake New York in his own image and likeness, by interpreting things that personally annoyed him as actual crimes.

The pope with a gun, despite his own very randy behavior, desexed New York. He pushed strip clubs to the margins of the city. He gave seedy but authentic 42nd Street a forced extreme makeover, transforming the corridor of ancient peep shows into a tourist-friendly megamall, replete with towering Disney store and windows full of bobble-head Derek Jeter figurines. Some residents really missed the lap dancing.

In 1999, Giuliani picked his most absurd fight: with the Brooklyn Museum over the art show "Sensation: Young British Artists From the Saatchi Collection." Without seeing it, Giuliani became offended by "The Holy Virgin Mary," a now famous painting by Turner Prize-winning-artist Chris Ofili, of a black Madonna, employing the controversial (yet puerile) elements of elephant dung and female genitalia -- ostensibly for shock value. And Rudy, shocked down to his adulterous Underoos, went off on a rampaging fit of Comstockery that made even ardent supporters think he was an overreaching jerkbag.

In a move widely perceived as power drunk and control freaky, Giuliani threatened to close the Brooklyn Museum and cancel its annual funding if the offending painting was not removed. He even issued statements about his intention to establish a "decency panel," granting his office (read: himself) the power to decide what creative works were decent enough to be allowed to be considered art in New York City. When graffiti artist Steve Powers staged a protest by drawing a caricature of Rudy and charging all comers a buck to throw fake elephant poop at it, cops threw him in jail.

The museum, with the support of the American Civil Liberties Union, countered with a lawsuit, charging Giuliani with violating the First Amendment -- and won. The ruling by federal District Court judge Nina Gershon stated, "There is no federal constitutional issue more grave than the effort by government officials to censor works of expression and to threaten the vitality of a major cultural institution as punishment for failing to abide by governmental demands for orthodoxy." Even Rudy's fellow New York City Catholics opposed his actions by 48 to 42 percent -- and Jay Leno, on national TV, compared him to Hitler.

Then, of course, there was the infamous 2001 ferret ban. New Yorkers, as the end of Rudy's reign neared, were half-expecting him to adopt the Singapore model of public canings for spitting and enact a citywide ban on gum.

By then, Rudy seemed to have taken himself out of earshot of most of his critics. Much like another petulant, authoritarian, unpopular second-term Republican. Rudy was stranded in the sandbox of his own mind, surrounded by sycophantic cronies. He had picked as playmates men whose careers were most distinguished by their loyalty to Rudy, loyalty at points verging on the conspiratorial and cultish. However, such insular habits made Giuliani an ideal Republican in a party that increasingly spoke of moral certitude, rewarded its supporters, distanced itself from reality, and punished or silenced dissent.

Giuliani's strangest bedfellow was surely Bernard Kerik, the even less qualified successor to Howard Safir. Kerik, who during his undercover days dressed like Lorenzo Lamas and compared himself to Serpico, enjoyed a tendency to play fast and loose with law enforcement, using his detectives as virtual Praetorian Guard for resolving personal matters. Kerik's autobiography was published by his own extramarital bedfellow, shameless publishing gorgon Judith Regan (who published Kerik's book long before failing to publish O.J. Simpson's "If I Did It"). Kerik allegedly sent detectives to search, SWAT-style, the homes of Fox TV employees after Regan claimed they had stolen her cell phone ... he was also reprimanded for sending detectives, on the city's dime, to do research for his book.

But he had once been Giuliani's personal bodyguard and thus was qualified to become New York's police commissioner. When Giuliani recommended that Bush nominate Kerik (then his business partner) head the Department of Homeland Security in 2004, Kerik's life unraveled miserably under the scrutiny of the vetting process. He withdrew his name and eventually pleaded guilty to accepting such perks as apartment renovations and personal loans, while a public official, from businesses with alleged mob ties.

After 9/11, with the help of Kerik, Rudy cashed in his own newly refurbished reputation as a leader by launching a consulting firm called Giuliani Partners, which includes Giuliani Security & Safety. It is, of course, a clubhouse full of cronies that included, until his recent difficulties, Bernie Kerik. He also cashes big checks for speaking to adoring crowds of heartland voters whose names do not end in vowels.

"America's Mayor" seems to be convincing those crowds that he is one of them. Pundits have been speculating that Giuliani is too liberal and otherwise sullied to win the Republican presidential candidacy –- he may be anti-peep show, anti-blasphemy, and anti-ferret, but he is pro-gun control, pro-choice and pro-gay rights. But Giuliani appears to have been in a long, quiet process of sliding ever rightward. Among those now raising money for Giuliani's presidential bid are Christopher Henick, former deputy assistant to Karl Rove, Bush fundraiser Anne Dickerson, and legendary Texas oil billionaire T. Boone Pickens.

America's Mayor may be America's next president, and America's next Angry Daddy. There is no consolation in knowing ahead of time how wrong that could go.

"At the end of the day, [Rudy will] find a way to screw things up again," predicted Steve Powers, he of the fake elephant poop, in an interview printed in the book "America's Mayor: The Hidden History of Rudy Giuliani's New York." "He's the victim of his own temper and temperament, especially when he has a real taste of power. Once he treats America like he treated New York and really gets out of hand with it, forget about it."

Editor's Note: This article has been corrected since it was first published.

http://www.salon.com/opinion/feature/2006/12/05/giuliani/print.html